June 12, 2017
Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee
RE – Senate Bill 168
On behalf of the 4,500 elected officials who govern the commonwealth’s public school districts, we request your opposition to Senate Bill 168, sponsored by Senator Patrick Stefano. Due to an October 2015 change to the PSBA Platform voted into effect by a majority of member delegates, PSBA opposes any measure that requires school districts to provide advance public notice and post terms of collective bargaining contracts prior to board action.
School board members and school employees maintain respectful working relationships every day. They bargain contracts in confidence, which allows for a free exchange of ideas and enables all parties to work in good faith. Collective bargaining agreements generally require compromise from both parties, which makes the confidential nature of their work so paramount. Taking that away, as Senate Bill 168 proposes to do, threatens their ability to reach such compromises, and lessens the chance of reaching agreements. School directors are elected by the general public to bargain in good faith on behalf of the district, and the taxpayers that elected them to serve. Current law does not prohibit districts from posting employee contracts online during negotiation and some districts choose to perform negotiations in this manner. Other school district choose to post once the contract is approved – both methods allow taxpayers to have the ability to review contracts that were bargained in good faith by the board of directors and the employees.
A requirement that removes what is currently a locally decided option to publicly post the terms of a collective bargaining agreement prior to the vote could cause greater delays and hurdles in a process that is already difficult. PSBA has concerns that the public posting of such an agreement may result in more complicated negotiations and difficulty reaching a compromise on the final collective bargaining agreement.
Finally, while PSBA recognizes the public policy goal of providing additional transparency to taxpayers, school directors are elected by these very same taxpayers with the purpose of managing the operations of the school district on their behalf. The choice to post is part of the negotiation process and should be a local choice.
I appreciate your time and attention to these matters. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at (717) 506-2450 x3337.
John M Callahan, Assistant Executive Director